The Revenant (2015)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy
“I ain’t afraid to die anymore, I’ve done it already.”
Leo Earns His Oscar
By Mason Manuel
Let’s get one thing straight here right off the bat. Leo does not get raped by a bear. OK? Moving on.The Revanant is not for the faint of heart. Loosely adapted off of Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, the film follows the brutal revenge story of trapper Hugh Glass. Glass was a trapper in the wild days of an infant America who was left for dead after being attacked (attacked not raped, seriously who thought that was real?) by a vicious bear. The characters are played by a half frozen all-star cast including Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hardy who come out swinging the some of the best acting of their respective careers. Hot off his huge success with Best Picture winner Birdman, director Alejandro González Iñárritu begins his experiment; filming a two and a half long hour feature using nothing but natural light, frigid environments that convey its chill in the theatre, and beautiful 360 one-takes that show off some of the most beautiful/violent shots in film that I have seen to date. But know this: for those who squirm at the ferocity of Tarantino or whine about it being cold when it’s 50 degrees outside, The Revenant may be too intense of an experience for you. You’ve been warned.
Just to let you know what kind of film we are in for in the opening minutes, the film starts off with beautiful, soaring arrow straight to the jugular. As blood spurts about across what used to be pristine snow, the camera beings one of its many 360 one shots, showing the beautiful landscape as screams of death and suffering come from those slowly bleeding to death in the soil. It’s an intense message, letting the viewer know the situation they have put themselves in. The brutal battle scenes are the best the film has to offer but sadly they are far and few between and begin to feel less surprising when they occur and more expected. When a slow pan occurs, viewers are immediately put on edge because they can smell blood in the water. There is no shock by the time the third or fourth battle comes around – by then the surprise comes from the absolute gruesome ways people die or kill. And kill they must. The young 1800’s America that Iñárritu has created shows no room for mercy. When we are shown a close up of a man whose life is slowly leaving him, the screen mists up with their last failing breaths.
The camera work is solid but the real bragging rights go to the cast. Not just for their excellent performances but for surviving what they called “a living hell” of a production. The cast and crew were shipped around to northern Canada and Argentina to capture the environment and bleak atmosphere they needed. When you see frost cake these men’s’ Paul Bunyan-like beards, that’s legit. When Leo shivers with cold and huddle to his measly fur coat like his life depends on it, that’s because it does. I title this article “Leo earns his Oscar” because that is precisely what happens. Surprisingly, he does not deliver all too many lines. Due to his character sustaining a throat injury when going toe to toe with the bear, you would be surprised how much of his acting is simply looking at things. The intense suffering and pain that comes from his multiple injuries and misfortune is a constant presence in his gaze. Tom Hardy brings his best acting chops to the table too, but pulls another Bane in that you can barely understand half of the damn things he says. Hardy is the obvious villain of the picture but he’s never without a sense of humanity. He abandons his men and is purely in the business for the money, but in that day and age you have to be. There is no room for looking out for your fellow man when the elements, native population, and general bad luck are all out for your head. He’s a right bastard, but never unrelatable which speaks to the actor’s ability.
Much like The Hateful Eight, The Revenant is a bloody revenge tale set deep in the ice, but unlike the Tarantino film, it keeps a sense of wonder and beauty in the world around despite the constant bloodshed. The original score by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto is haunting but retreads over its own theme too much to be anything to write home about. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on the other hand deserves an award for his hugely complex tracking shots and use of lighting. It is an experiment that is beautiful and immersive – terrifying and engrossing. It’s a hell of a beautiful film if you can stomach the bloodshed. It is not for everyone but The Revenant will be a film forever remembered in cinematic history for testing limits. RDR gives it a 7.8 out of 10.